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December 07, 2013


In case you haven't heard, Leo and I are currently trapped indoors. Dallas was hit hard by an ice/snow storm on Thursday night, and the temperatures have yet to reach the melting point, so we've spent the time hunkered down, covered in blankets, watching movies, staring at the walls, and drinking plenty of wine and hot cocoa. Hydration comes first, people.

And apparently this storm of ours has a name: Cleon. I have no idea when they started naming winter storms, but there it is. We have Cleon to thank for all of this lovely frozen precipitation. And really? Cleon?? Who's picking these names? It's like they want us to make fun of it.

I'm always highly skeptical when our north Texas weather people predict this stuff. We've been in Dallas for over three years now, and they typically predict a snowpocalypse at least twice a winter. And you know how many times they've gotten it right? Once. So I don't typically rush around, gathering supplies and putting on snow chains. But alas, they got it right a second time. And luckily Leo showed up on Thursday night with three (THREE!) loaves of bread and a gallon of milk. I guess there's always french toast?

So yes. We've been inside for a day and a half. And interestingly, the cold is making us nostalgic for Botswana.

Earlier this week, I spent many hours making the perfect little Africa cookies to sell at a fundraiser for my upcoming trip to Ethiopia.

And that alone got me thinking... I miss Africa so very much, and can't wait to get back this coming March. I get excited anytime I get to use my Africa cookie cutter! And Leo enjoys eating the results. And then it gets us telling stories and remembering where and when we first met.

Believe it or not, southern Africa gets COLD. Freakishly cold. During the winter months, it was very typical for me to walk to work with frost on the ground and maybe even a frozen puddle or two. And this became especially fun due to the fact that I had no heat in my very poorly sealed home. It was absolutely normal for me to go to bed dressed in my warmest possible clothing (including hiking socks), zip up inside my down sleeping bag, pull up my flannel sheets and top it off with a ski cap, a thick blanket, and a comforter. And I'd wake up watching my steamy breath while my nose was running. It. Was. COLD.

Strangely enough, I can't seem to find any pictures of these cold Lobatse mornings... Probably because my fingers were too cold to work the camera anyway. But I did find this lovely picture from July 2009, as Leo and I were packing to go on a trip to the Okavango Delta. (Southern Hemisphere = Winter in July)

That's inside my bedroom. And I'm wearing a winter coat with a scarf! Which was totally normal. And ps- I believe I'm scowling at Leo because he was interrupting my perfectly organized packing procedure and checklist. Don't mess with the organization!

While I'm not quite willing to admit how long I went without bathing, just know the cold also severely affected my hygiene. (Baby wipes can go a long way.) When the hot water went out (which was often)- there was NO WAY I was getting into a cold shower during the winter. I'd rather attract flies than get my hair wet.

Yesterday, here in Dallas, one of us said something about it being too cold to shower. And that ended with a lot of laughter. Yes, it's cold. Yes, we're cheap and won't set the thermostat above 68. But we have heat! We have a fireplace in case of emergency. We have an oven to bake delicious (and warm) goodies. We have Netflix and cable to keep us occupied. So we're stuck inside for a few days. The downtime is much needed and will be greatly appreciated in hindsight!

Hopefully we'll see sunlight tomorrow. But in the meantime, we'll keep looking at old pictures and staying hydrated.

And on that note- I need a shower.

November 14, 2013

Pass the tissues.

My name is Laura, and I'm a weeper.

Always have been, always will be. Seriously, people. Any time I experience an overwhelming emotion- frustration, sadness, anger, happiness, loneliness... it comes straight out my eyeballs in the form of tears.

And this trend goes back for decades.

Any time I was in trouble with my parents, or even just having a serious discussion, I would start crying. I wouldn't even know why! But there they were... tears... whether I wanted them or not.

I've cried at every birth I've ever witnessed. And there have been many. Folks I have barely even met! And I'm bawling.

I even cried earlier this year at the courthouse when some very good friends of ours were finalizing the adoption of their beautiful baby girl. Not one other crier in the house, and me, the one NOT adopting a child, is blubbering like a moron.

Any time I hear the Star-Spangled Banner. Tears.

I even cried at a Josh Groban concert one time. He had been on stage for all of five seconds when my family caught me with tears streaming down my face- and they haven't stopped mocking me for it since.

The ugliest cry I ever experienced was on June 22, 2010. I had just finished the worst flight of my entire life and had left my fiancé in Africa without any time frame of when we may be reunited. When the plane touched down in New York, everyone broke into cheers and joyous applause, and I lost it. I wanted to be back in Africa immediately. I'm lucky the flight crew didn't call security.

Grad school has made this crying nature of mine even more impressive. And by impressive, I mean OUT OF CONTROL. Back in the day, Leo used to get all concerned and try to figure out what was wrong. But he's since learned that nothing is really wrong. I'm just so flipping frustrated and overwhelmed and it's best to pat me on the head, walk away, and come back in 10 minutes or so. Crying makes it all better.

I used to go out of my way to hide the tears. It used to be an embarrassment. But hey- I'm an emotional person, and sometimes it just cannot be avoided.

Cry it out.

November 08, 2013

What's happening hot stuff...

Hi everyone!

I'm still here! I promise.

The school semester is more than half over (yay!), and I figured it was time for a quick and dirty update for all of you. We're definitely staying busy with our studies and all that nonsense, but we do find a little bit of fun time every now and again...

Back in October, I ventured north to Fayetteville to spend some time with family. And we made our way to a local pumpkin patch. My dear nephew Colt helped me pick out the perfect pumpkin to bring home to Uncle Leo, and on Halloween night we opened up a bottle of wine, watched "Scream" and carved up that bad boy!

Surprisingly, this was our first time to carve a pumpkin together. And while I expected to take the lead, being the American in the group and all, Leo informed me he's been on "pumpkin-carving-duty" for his kindergarteners for the last two years... So I sat back, mostly drank wine, and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Ohhhhh yeah.

Then, last week, we got to get all gussied up and go support a clinic I've been training at since June. Agape Clinic is in downtown Dallas and does amazing work with a not-so-amazing budget. The staff is incredible, and I hope to stay involved with them for a long, long time. Once a year, they do a big, very fancy fundraiser and we were invited to come! While we never thought to get a full-length picture of us, here's one of us stuck in traffic on our way to Union Station!

It was an impressive night, to say the least. Wolfgang Puck catering, auction items going for thousands of dollars, and we even got to meet our local councilman! And as a bonus, I found this drawn on a car in the parking garage as we arrived home:

Did I mention it was an open bar??
Speaking of cars, I also did a bit of a science experiment last week with mine.

I noticed this was happening awhile back with my battery cable. And when I went in to the dealer for a routine oil change, and they offered to change out the whole cable for me for $700+, I immediately went searching for another option. And with the help of my brilliant parents, a plan was devised!
Baking soda, water, and some old toothbrush heads that needed to be thrown away anyway.
And voila! The difference is slightly incredible. And the fizzing and bubbling of the baking soda concoction made it all the more fun. $700?? Pshaw!
We also went shopping for ski attire... since we have only 41 more days until we're on the slopes in Utah!
It was more of a window shopping expedition, with the intention of ordering stuff online for much lower cost, but we did end up getting the deal of the century on Leo's ski pants. $18! For ski pants! I'm not kidding! And we may just have to go back and get these goggles. Because we look goooood. And I need pink goggles.
And to finish up our photo recap, here we have Keebler and I getting our cuddle on.
Only 188 more days until graduation!! Hope to get back to you all soon!

September 05, 2013

Eat more moose.

Well folks, the semester is in high gear and Leo and I have officially survived our first week! Feel free to cheer- I assure you we did. :)

This is definitely the worst one yet... but I discovered a lovely little app several months back that gives me hope. It's a countdown on my phone that counts down by the second! As of tonight, only 252 days left until I graduate! Which sounds like a lot... but yesterday it was 253. 

This week, I also started my pediatric clinical rotation-- And although it involves me driving on a toll road once a week, and is about 20 miles away, it ended up being a perfect fit and I think we will all get along fabulously! (But seriously.. the drive!) I love it when I get to take care of kiddos... they're so darn cute as long as they go home with someone else.

AND, as an added bonus (or is it?)- IKEA is right next door to the clinic. So after a wildly successful first day, I decided to go walk around a bit. We definitely didn't need anything, but I hadn't been in well over a year, and IKEA makes me happy- even if just to look.

And wouldn't ya know? I ended up finding two very awesome (and super budget friendly) items!

First up: Woodland creatures cookie cutters! ...Plus a random whale one. Because really, who doesn't need these in their kitchen?

And awesome find #2: Moose pasta!

Aren't they cute?? And it turns out- also very delicious.

Steamy moose, and finished moose. Why can't all pasta come in fun shapes? It definitely makes rough school semesters that much better.

August 19, 2013

And so, I sew.

Last week, I found myself with an entire night to my lonesome. I had nothing to study, didn't have to be in bed by a certain time, and Leo was out with the boys having a ball on the soccer field. (pun intended) So I got into some comfy PJ's and decided to get out my sewing machine!

And wouldn't you know-I successfully created something! I sew. I'm a sewer!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... my first ever sewing project:

It's a snack bag! Nowhere near perfect... but definitely functional.
It's no secret I have an intense hatred for Ziploc baggies- or any single-use plastic item for that matter. So we try to stick to glass and cloth as much as possible. And when I found this design a while back, I knew I needed about 20 of them. You can make any shape or size you need, but I decided to start out with one that would be a perfect size to hold my almonds. Because almonds are delicious.
I went with white thread, but my bobbin had already been loaded with black thread. And I decided it would be fun to mix things up a bit, and leave the black bobbin as it was... My not really remembering how to actually change out the bobbin also affected this decision.
And I did have one tiny snafu as I put the final touches in place...

But I was on the phone with Mom, and distracted, and not doing my best work. Obviously not my fault. And in the end, I did learn the invaluable lesson of how to rip out a bad stitch!

I've also decided that my favorite part of sewing is my little tomato pin cushion. How can you not love this thing?!

Not sure what project #2 will be, but I'm pretty darn proud of project #1!

August 10, 2013

A local wander.

Summer school officially ended for us on Monday! (and the angels rejoiced...) And while we were hoping to get down to San Antonio during the few days we had off together to celebrate that success officially, Leo had to coach soccer most nights, and we couldn't venture too far from home. So we instead decided to put our three days to good use around here!

Day 1:

After getting my hair did (first things first), we grabbed brunch at one of our favorite spots and headed to "2 Guns." The first showing of the day equaled my being a very cheap date-- which is something I take great pride in. The movie is just that much more enjoyable when the tickets are dirt cheap and we're the only ones there! (I know, I know. I'm 70.) But it was a good movie, and I got popcorn for lunch- so a definite success!

Then, on the way home, we went and found something we've been wanting to see for a while now: The grave of Bonnie Parker! As in, Bonnie of Bonnie & Clyde. She's buried less than two miles from where we live, and we've been meaning to go visit her.

Such a small, plain marker for such an infamous person! But it was neat to see. And Clyde is buried only a few miles away, but he's in a private cemetery with trespassing signs posted... No entrada. Trust me- we tried.
Isn't history fun?!
Day 2:
We slept in, made and enjoyed some delectable omelettes, and then made our way over to White Rock Lake. It's a lake right smack dab in the middle of Dallas, and we've both only ever seen it from a distance. Well, it was high time that changed- and we decided to conquer it on bikes.  
Strangely enough, we'd never actually ridden bikes together. And Leo was a little offended when I confirmed with him the night before that he could actually ride a bike. I assumed yes, but just wanted to make sure before we actually hit the trail! That led to a lecture all about how "in the village" he once fetched gallons and gallons of water from the river while riding a bike... and used to balance huge bunches of bananas on his head while riding a bike. (You best believe that led to a challenge that will hopefully be completed at a later date.) His "in the village" stories rival any "I walked uphill both ways" stories you may have ever heard... And I giggle because the man telling them went to a BOARDING SCHOOL. But either way- he can definitely ride, and look very cute doing so, and I apologized for having ever doubted him.
It had been years since either of us had ridden, and it really did feel good! Well, actually, it felt hot. But there was a tiny breeze coming off the lake and the faster we pedaled, the more wind we got to help offset the 104 degree temperature.
But we had a blast!
If you look real close, you can see that we each got our own little bike bell, too! Hands down, the best part of the rental.

Not many action shots of us actually ON the bikes, since riding and manipulating a camera tends to lead to bleeding... but I promise we rode. A lot. And the lake was gorgeous!

After biking, we took a lovely nap (Keebler got in on that action), and then Leo had to head to soccer. So I decided to take the opportunity to get reacquainted with an old friend.
But that's a whole long story (that ends with my first successful sewing project!) which deserves its own entire blog. So I'll showcase it later. Just know this: 1) I'm a domestic goddess, and 2) You're all going to be crazy impressed. Stay tuned.
Day 3:
We love kayaking. And there's a ginormous lake just east of Dallas that we've driven past about 100 times but never actually visited... so we chose to explore it properly with the use of paddles.

Lake Ray Hubbard.
Again, Texas tried to get the best of us with a toasty, 106 degrees- but with multiple applications of sunscreen and paddling fast so as to get a breeze going, it was great! Fish kept popping their heads up all around, we saw tons of birds, and it was wonderful to float around and forget the world for just a few hours...
We got home in time to get showered and head to movie #2 of the three-day-adventure: "We're the Millers." And while the movie was hysterical, the gray-haired, very prim and proper couple sitting in front of us was even more entertaining. They clearly had no idea what kind of movie they were walking into, and watching their reactions to the not-so-clean humor was just priceless. I'm shocked they made it through the whole thing. AND! I got popcorn again.
It's not often we get to spend time together when one or both of us is not thinking about school... Yeah, we find as much time as possible during the semester, but there's always that dark cloud of studying looming overhead. So to get three almost complete days of doing and exploring whatever the heck we wanted was pretty darn awesome. AND we got to see a little more of our fair city!
Excellent times. Lots of popcorn. And fantastic company.

June 08, 2013

The Last Frontier!

Alright people-- you ready for a cruise recap?? 'Cause here it comes.
After the whirlwind three days (wonderful days!) spent in Portland and Seattle, Leo and I were exhausted. I won't even lie. But we still had seven days of vacation, a new state AND another country to see- So onward we went.
Neither one of us had ever been on a cruise before, and neither one of us really had any idea of what we were headed into. Yes, lots of research had been done and we had the bare basics in our brains, but rolling up to the cruise ship dock was both exciting and a little terrifying. First off, we were technically entering Canada during the trip- and while I had confirmed months before we even booked that Leo's lack of an American passport wouldn't be a problem, I still had this "what if?" in the back of my head. So as we walked up to the check-in desk, my heart was already racing. Immigration is the devil- and it never treats us nicely. So you can imagine the adrenaline and panic involved when our nice little British check-in lady called over not one, but THREE, different managers and then took all of Leo's documents to the secret back room to "make sure everything was in order." We could not have asked for nicer staff through the whole process, but it was more than a little nerve-racking to see passengers, both foreign and domestic, come and go all around us while we stayed put... When the head honcho with the fancy walky talky finally came back after what seemed like 30 minutes and told us to have fun in Alaska, I nearly leapt over the desk and kissed her! And we sprinted toward the entrance ramp before anyone could say otherwise!

We were officially on the cruise ship! And It. Was. HUGE.
First stop: lunch. We found what would be one of our main hangouts during the week, otherwise known as "the buffet," and began what would also become a trend- eating in excess.
After staying awake just long enough to watch the ship pull away from Seattle, and participating in the super exciting mandatory safety evacuation drill, we headed to our cabin and CRASHED. We crashed HARD. We slept through the Welcome Aboard show, every single announcement that may have been made and barely even stumbled out of bed long enough to eat dinner. It was the most glorious night EVER.
And the whole next day was pretty much more of the same. We woke up to an especially rocky boat on our one and only full day at sea, and managed to balance our trays as we made our way through the breakfast line. We watched as others grabbed the little "sickness" bags posted at every elevator, and thanked our lucky stars that we were both feeling fine. And that's when we began to check out these people we were cruising with. Let me tell ya...
There are a lot of old people on cruise ships. Like, A LOT. I'm sure the fact that it was early in the season and not all the kiddos were out of school yet had an impact on this, but on this boat, we were in the extreme lower end of the age bracket. And the old folks love to wear clothing that states exactly where they’re from, what their job is, or what sports team they support. It was fascinating to watch. I now know the difference between the Boise State Broncos and the Denver Broncos. I also now know there’s such a place called Clemson University. I learned of Clemson's existence from a man who was wearing Clemson sweatpants, a Clemson hoodie and a Clemson hat. He later took off the hoodie to reveal a Clemson t-shirt underneath. I think he may have been a fan, but I knew better than to ask and open that can of worms. 
As far as I can tell, the clothing is all about starting conversations and bonding with fellow passengers. But really, Leo and I, without intending to do so, became the hermit passengers of the ship. Surely we couldn’t have been alone in this, but our favorite hobbies included sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more- leaving basically no time for socializing. Seriously- we slept A LOT. I’m sure our stateroom steward thought we were either clinically depressed or honeymooners. We ordered room service every chance we got. In fact, when assessing the luggage situation many weeks back and determining that participating in the formal dinner nights would require the bringing of at least one checked bag, we quickly ruled it out. ($25 for a checked bag?! Heck no.) And boy are we glad we made that choice! There were two “elegant nights” during the week at sea. All the old people would get all gussied up and put on their best and strut around the ship taking pictures with our Italian captain (Why are they ALWAYS from Italy??) and pose for formal pictures they would later be charged $5 for. Leo and I, in turn, would put on PJ’s, order just about everything available from room service, find whatever we could on TV and move only far enough to glance out the window or take a trip to the bathroom. It. Was. Awesome. 
We napped every day. I’m not exaggerating here, people-- EVERY. DAY. And these weren’t little cat naps. No, no- these were no nonsense, serious relaxation, I dare you to try to get us out of the room naps.
We did go to some shows (where Leo learned the YMCA!) and attended some nature and wildlife talks, and you better believe he hit up the gym every day (crazy man)- but yeah, for the most part, when we were on that boat, we were the laziest humans on planet Earth. I found this great article recently that sums our thoughts up perfectly. Read it HERE. I'm not sure that we'll ever become people who love cruises, but the down time involved while boat-ridden was sooo very needed after the semester we both just endured. For THAT, we may very well consider traveling by ginormous boat (with lots of food) again in the future.
But enough about the laziness! Because each and every time we hit land, it was go time! We stopped in five main areas up and down the inside passage: Skagway, Juneau & Ketchikan in Alaska, Victoria in British Columbia, and also got to enjoy a full day in the amazing Tracy Arm Fjord area. And it was even more incredible than either one of us could have expected.

Though the pictures don't even come close to doing it justice, I think they'll do a better job than any words of mine every could...
It was unbelievable-- There's just no other word for it! We saw glaciers, icebergs, bears, whales, mountain goats, salmon, waterfalls, bald eagles, porpoises... and many, many other spectacular sights!
The weather lingered in the 40-50 range nearly the whole time, and while we bundled up, the locals were definitely enjoying the "scorching days" as they called them. At our first stop in Skagway, we got off the boat wearing our winter coats, ready to see the tiny town, and found a couple of shirtless men playing frisbee nearby. Ha! I guess it's all about perspective, right?
We had such an incredible time and got the perfect mix of leisure and adventure we were looking for. There's still a lot to see in Alaska and I'm sure someday we'll make it even further north to discover it all, but for now, it's back to the books!